I used to ask myself, "Why dinner and a movie?" If you want to impress a girl take her to a theme park, or sky diving or somewhere you can use a gun. Why something so ordinary? Dinner...everybody eats dinner. I figured you should do something that shows her a little bit of who you are. If you are a ninja, walk her down a dark alley in the middle of the night so she can see you beat the cuss out of someone trying to rob you. If you are a barber, cut her hair. A police officer, arrest her kid brother.
As I grew older I saw the flaw in my understanding: as much as men like to show off, women are not impressed. As a general principle, comfort rules... hence, the ordinary. Everybody eats. If that is too uncomfortable, see a show. That way you don't even have to look at each other, or talk. Its perfect. If it's a good movie, say, Breakfast at Tiffany's, or The Departed (best picture this year by the Academy), your golden.
Then again, the highlight of a really good date is the dinner, not the movie. The movie is just an easy way out in case you're a fool and you took her to an all you can eat that didn't include a salad bar. Food is the substance of relationships. When you first start dating you lie with food, "I'll just have a something light." The day after the wedding that salad is going to become lobster with a side of steak. At a job interview you can impress with food. My genius brother, Jason, deliberately ordered spaghetti at an important interview... and got the job. Why? They were impressed that he could eat such a messy dish without fear. Brilliant! The way we eat can tell a lot about who we are. The first time my brother (Jason again) introduced my parents to his wife to be, Cheri, my mother ordered the biggest dish and was the only one to clean her plate. Then she finished all the food left on Cheri's plate... after polishing off the remains of my dad's entrée. "You gonna eat that?" If Cheri was paying attention, and I know she was, she could have learned a lot about her future mother in law from that meal. Don't say you weren't warned. (The point here, for those of you who do not know my mother, is not that she eats a lot, but that she says and does whatever is on her mind, regardless of how it appears. Not a bad trait in a mother... unless you care about privacy or being embarrassed in public, which, by the way, home grown Bottigs do not.)
The TV program Everybody Loves Raymond (ELR) understood the important connection between food and relationships. In this show everyone is always eating, taking real bites and swallowing, sincere ingestion. They eat so much they must come hungry or they could never finish filming before they are all too stuffed to deliver their lines. Raymond's mother in the show, Marie, is often the focal point of the food fetish. Every time Raymond comes over she offers him food. When she is upset with him she takes away his food. To show she is proud of him, concerned for him, thinking of him, she makes food. This extends to the other members of the family as well. Robert, the less loved son, often has food taken away from him and given to Ray. The writers of the show, understanding this metaphor for life we call eating, demonstrate that Robert is a little crazy by making him touch food to his chin when he eats. When Ray and Robert's parents meet Amy's (Amy eventually marries Robert) parents for the first time they are accepting until they find out a horrible truth. Amy's dad has never eaten a muffin. "What kind of a man has never had a muffin?" The conclusion: he must be certifiable. This importance of food is demonstrated in Ray's wife Debra as well. Marie is never fully satisfied with her as a good wife for her son because she can't cook. In one episode, however, Debra makes braciole and it is surprisingly good. Marie's husband, Frank, even sneaks over to Ray's house to eat it so Marie doesn't find out. Normally a sour spirit, he becomes eloquent over Debra's dish. Handing her some flowers for the privilege of partaking in this delight he says, "Anyone who can cook braciole like this deserves a hillside full of heavenly scented marigolds and daffodils." It may seem out of character to anyone with a less intimate knowledge of the characters and the role of food in the show, but on ELR food is life and joy and the substance of relationships. Marie finds Frank cheating on her (by eating Debra's cooking) and she is deeply wounded. It turns out that braciole is the dish she used to win his love. He married her with the intention that "she would cook for no one else but me!" Food is a basic element of fidelity. At the end of this episode he renews his love for her, "Marie, a man needs more than braciole... he needs lasagna, soups... manicotti" and they embrace.
Food is relational.